Expanding Correctional Education Through Technology-Correctional Education Association

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/06/expanding-correctional-education-technology-correctional-education-association/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. And back at our microphones, Steve Steurer is the Execute Director of the Correctional Education Association. www.ceanational.org. The program today, ladies and gentlemen, is Expanding Correctional Education Through Technology. We’ve just come from the conference, the national conference that Steve put on in Arlington, Virginia, where he had federal secretaries of different agencies and people from all over the country talking about the expansion of correctional education through technology. I think it’s a really exciting concept. I think this is a very important program. Steve, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Steve Steurer:  Thank you, Len! I really appreciate it.

Len Sipes:  All right. We’ve got a great story for you to tell about what happened in Ohio, but I want to start off the program with two basic constructs and you tell me if I’m right or wrong. By and large, whether it be vocational education, drug treatment, mental health treatment, GED programs, advanced education, basic education, by and large, those programs are vastly underfunded within just about any prison system in the United States. Am I right or wrong about that?

Steve Steurer:  You’re absolutely correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what we’re trying to do is through technology and remote training, it may be the answer as to dramatically increasing inmate participation in basic GED and advanced education, correct?

Steve Steurer:  That would be correct, I’d say.

Len Sipes:  All right. So tell me about that. Tell me about this idea of using technology to expand correctional education.

Steve Steurer:  Up until now, the correctional systems in this country have for the most part been just dead set against any kind of internet hook up that goes beyond an officers’ desk or an officials’ desk. Only recently have some teachers been able to get some internet connectivity on their desk in the classroom in the prison, but the inmates are not allowed, and so that’s very closely gauged and watched, and that’s for a very, very simple and very good reason – because they’re afraid of gang communication and those guys getting out there and doing terrible stuff at porno sites or what have you. That’s a legitimate concern. We have said and we’re trying to prove now, that you don’t have to worry about that. We have enough capability to block that. Not that occasionally somebody would sneak through it, there’s always somebody out there, but we would probably have very few incidents using current technology.

Len Sipes:  So in essence the security part, the security concerns have been addressed?

Steve Steurer:  They have been addressed and there are many people that agree with that now, even correctional officials.

Len Sipes:  All right, so you had this wonderful conference. You had hundreds of people from all over the United States, you had two federal secretaries, you had lots of experts talking about correctional education, and what was the buzz within the conference? Was it enthusiastic about the idea of taking technology and dramatically expanding correctional education? What were the perceptions on the part of the people who came to the conference?

Steve Steurer:  The people that came there were really enthused. I’ve talked to a lot of folks and I’ve talked to other folks who’ve talked to other folks. They’re really enthused because of what they’ve learned and what they participated in, in terms of technology applications from different places in the country. And we even prototyped, we did a WebEx live from Ironwood Prison in California with Hollywood Producer Scott Budnick, who has devoted himself to this cause now. We had fifteen inmates in a room with a captain, Captain Roe, doing the technology and the WebEx and also in the hotel room interacting with these students back and forth with questions. There are how many prisons in this country have an internet connection in a classroom, able to do a WebEx, the distance learning on this from coast to coast, nobody’s ever done that.

Len Sipes:  Go ahead please.

Steve Steurer:  Well I was gone to say, and I mean, I have some other example but just to start, just to have that in the conference, people said they’d never had such a terrific, that was the teacher of the year dinner event. They’d never seen anything like that. It was the best they’d ever had.

Len Sipes:  I interviewed Dr Lois Davis. She works for the RAND Corporation. Their report in 2014 “How Effective is Correctional Education? Where Do We Go To From Here?” Within that report she did, and we interviewed her, and we’ll put a link to that interview in the show notes, but within that report, I got the sense that what she was saying is that using remote tools, using technology to provide an educational experience, again whether it be learning how to read, whether it’d be basic education, GED, advanced education, that the individuals participating in remote education have the potential for doing as well as having a teacher in the room. Am I overplaying that? Am I underplaying it? Give me your assessment.

Steve Steurer:  Well I think she’s not 100% right. I mean in my opinion I think that using and having the technology and then having the back up of experienced teachers working with it just will make it even more powerful because the population we’re working with, we’re working with for the most part, is not engaged in education on the street even where they have the technology. So there’s another human factor that needs to be put in there other than remote technology. But that’s a debate that goes on among professionals. But she has come out with a study that has shown us that there’s just a dearth of, a lack of technology being used in a situation where it could be so effective.

Len Sipes:  But the bottom line, and again, this is what I want listeners to do because a lot of people listening to this program are going to be from the Criminal Justice System and they’re going to be saying, “Leonard, tell me something I don’t know about the lack of programs within prisons.” But there’s a lot of other people out there, the aides to mayors, aides to congress people, congressional aides, aides to county executives, who don’t know. And I think the point needs to be reinforced that the studies that I’ve looked at indicate that in terms of drug treatment, mental health treatment, ordinarily you’re talking about 10% of the prison population or below that. In terms of educational programs you’re talking about less than that in some cases.

So the overwhelming majority of prison inmates, they’re sitting there for five years. Basically their needs for either mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment and I know that’s not what we’re talking about today, but educational programming, they’re not being met. So the only way we’re going to meet those needs is through technology, hopefully supplemented by real, honest to God teachers, trained teachers. But again, the premise of the program, and tell me if I’m wrong, is that if they’re not going to get it through technology in all likelihood they’re not going to get educational programs at all.

Steve Steurer:  That’s correct. That’s correct. And if I had a choice, if somebody said you can’t bring the teachers in but you can bring technologies in, I’d be the first person to carry the first computer in and help wire a place up, but then I’d start fighting for teachers that are technologically astute to be part of that. But we need to get technology in there and a lot of staff can be helpful with that. They don’t have to necessarily be teaching staff to have some kind of an impact.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about the program in Ohio. You did a pilot program and now they’re expanding it?

Steve Steurer:  Well, you know, the whole thing is nobody wants to take a chance. We’re not going to bring in even tablets because inmates can get off there one way or the other and do gang communication which is probably the biggest fear. And they’ll be sitting there looking at pornographic sites, which is you know, political death for people trying to run a prison and somebody finds that out.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Steve Steurer:  And so we got a project going in Ohio, where at the Lake Erie Correctional Institution last fall, with tablets from Union Supply, a company we’re working with, it’s a commissary company. They created a tablet that’s very secure. It can go to the Internet with Wi-Fi but it’s been locked down tight and blocked with the kind of software protections they have. Nobody’s been able; they’ve been using it as a media thing in many states. Nobody’s been able to get off that, nobody’s been caught on the Internet. So we turned into a classroom situation. Ashland University provides post secondary education for years in Ohio prisons, including Lake Erie. We issued twenty tablets from Union, put on college level courses, course in first semester with full credit entry level collage courses. The fellows had to qualify to be in these courses, so they met all the criteria.

The course was loaded onto an angel, which is like a blackboard program, online program, and they were put on tablets. The tablet also has a keyboard that you can plug and play so they can type rather than just picking away on the screen of the tablet. It has Microsoft word in it so they can write papers and save them. And twenty students started that course, eighteen finished it successfully, and there was not one tablet that was abused. They came out without any problem being broken or cracked on. Nobody, the correctional officers could open those tablets at any time, and they did to look and see what these guys were doing inside. Nobody attempted to mess with these tablets to create something different, to get out on the Internet. It was a total clean operation.

The Corrections Corporation of America has now signed off on these tablets for use in their facilities and they’re looking to do it in other places. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, which work with them, and owns, they co-manage that facility, has okayed tablets in Ohio for other uses. So the Ohio Central School System which is the school system by law, which operates the Prison Education Program in the state prisons, has now ordered and finalized a purchase for three hundred and fifty tablets to be deployed in various situations in the adult prisons over the next year and we’re working with them on that.

Len Sipes:  I’ll tell you I had a conversation and I’m not going to identify the person, and he said, here’s his vision; let’s just take the state of Richmond for an example, that you have somebody in the state of Richmond, somebody in the city of Richmond, doing classrooms, and there are twenty, thirty, forty classrooms going on at the same time, and that every person who wants to participate in the state of Virginia, that these programs are automatically going out to these individual inmates. Many of them are live instruction. In some cases the hope is that you can take questions, that you can ask questions back and forth between the teachers and the students spread throughout every prison in the state of Virginia.

And then that person said, “Well, Leonard, you know, if we can do that for any particular state, we can do it for every state in the United States. We can do it for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. We can constantly pump out again, basic education, 8th grade certificates, GED, reading programs, collegiate programs, vocational training, and we can also put on programs dealing with mental health and substance abuse. We can also have families talk to the individual inmates.” He saw it as a revolution in terms of correctional education. Is his thought just pie in the sky or is this something that actually can happen?

Steve Steurer:  It has happened in bits and pieces everywhere, and it will, and I’m hoping that we can make it happen, all those pieces together in lots of places. I mean you do have inmates now writing email. It goes through a secure server out to the family and back. And it’s the same thing like writing letters. The staff would sort of look at the letters in the mail coming in and out you know, and the same thing is now on email. That’s been done, that’s been done for a good number of years now. In the United States it’s happening, it’s happened in Europe quite a bit. We have now shown that you can use tablets safely, if you want to get it on wifi. We have had courses in various places going out on the Internet and teachers at the university nearby or something connected up, but it’s only happened in a few places and it’s usually more of a less a secure place.

But you know, we did this WebEx in California last night. We had fifteen inmates in the class in the middle of the Ironwood Correctional Facility in California. There was a correctional officer in the room, Captain Roe, who is very tech oriented. He was running the WebEx on one end and I was on the other end running our talk with the participants, we had three hundred people in a room we had teachers of the year. We were talking back and forth. We were applauding each other. We were asking questions of each other. You know, we could’ve run a video that everybody could see for some instructional purpose if we had wanted to. We could’ve provided paper on each end to do some subsequent work afterwards. We could’ve, you know, this could be done, it has been done, it’s being done in that one prison in California. In fact, that is being considered now in some of the other places because we’re doing it. It’s very secure and you know, you can go and find little bits and pieces of this stuff happening everywhere. It’s possible. It’s secure. And the enthusiasm of the students when they get involved with this stuff is terrific.

Len Sipes:  We’re almost halfway through the program. I might as well reintroduce you now, Steve. Steve Steurer, he is the executive director of the Correctional Education Association. www.ceanational.org. The program today is about expanding correctional education through technology. It’s piggy backing on the conference that Steve just had over the course of the last couple of days in Arlington, Virginia, right outside of Washington DC. It’s also piggy backing on a rather substantial piece of research; “How Effective is Correctional Education and Where Do We Go to From Here?” by Lois Davis and I did interview Lois on another program and I’ll put the link to her program in the show notes as well as everything else we’re talking about. Steve, you had representatives from the US Department of Education and the US Department of Justice at this conference, correct?

Steve Steurer:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And what was their take on all this?

Steve Steurer:  Well, the US Department of Education has been terrific in the last several years. And so we had the Deputy Secretary Johan Uvin, who is in charge of what is Career and Vocational Education, they call it OCTAE now. It used to be called OVAE. And he was there and he discussed with Gerri Fiala, the Assistant Secretary of Department of Labor, issues of workforce preparation, and services that are available through the Federal Departments and some of the things that they’re supporting with some upcoming small amounts of competitive funds. And then we had, the next day we had an assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, who is in charge of the Second Chance grants and lots of other areas, BJA, Dennis works for her, and Solomon works with her, people that you and I know very well; and she was talking about particularly focusing on juvenile issues, juvenile justice issues and so that they were sharing some efforts they’re doing, some things they want us to be involved with and so the audience received us very well. We’ve never had that level of Federal participation in our conferences so that is very optimistic to me that we’re getting the message out and people are listening at a level where hopefully they can do something where it will affect policy.

Len Sipes:  But this concept has been kicked around for years in Washington DC. The sense is that okay, the states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons do not have the money; it’s not that they don’t want to do it, they just don’t have the money for the expansion of correctional education. We’re talking about over two million adults incarcerated in US prisons every year, with seven hundred thousand leaving Federal and State Prisons every year. We’re talking about a 50% rate of recidivism in terms of re-incarceration. We’re talking about the possibility that if Lois’ research is correct in terms of the effectiveness of correctional education and where do we go to from here, if we can impact the rate of return by 10, 15, 20%, through educational programs, or through contacts with the community, contacts with employers, contacts with family, again all the different programs we’re talking about, if we can have a 10 to 20% reduction in recidivism, it will substantially remake the Criminal Justice System, it will reduce the crime rate in this country substantially and it will reduce the burden on tax payers by billions of dollars. So this seems like an obvious win-win situation.

Steve Steurer:  Well it does and the problem I run into however is you can now convince most politicians, you know  they can be skeptical, “Well I studied via the prestigious RAND corporation that summarizes all the studies that have been done for years”, people will still doubt that but most people will say, “Okay, that’s great. It’s not the priority right now because we’ve got too much stuff going on in our public schools here and our colleges and students in the free world are just being burdened with tuition, why should they stick the money over here?” So that’s what we’re fighting now. We’ve won the battle for the most part, at least with people who are in the know like you and others who read and discuss this issue. We’ve won the battle that education and drug programs and such can reduce recidivism and help public safety, help drop the crime rate, etc.

It’s the priority now with the country in such a bad budget situation and tight dollars, to shift money over there. So technology can help us here because we can do a lot more, can reach a lot more with the same amount of dollars for technology than we’d have to spend on hiring a person to teach and only reaching so many people. So this is very exciting. We have another example here. I invite you to come, nearby here to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility, I’m running this little project with Rob Green, the Warden, and Art Wallenstein the Director of Corrections. We have thirty tablets.

Len Sipes:  For Montgomery County. Yes.

Steve Steurer:  For Montgomery County. I’m at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility up in Boyds. Teachers are using the tablets, the students are being taught how to use the tablets in the class, taking them back to the cells, bringing work back, and the correctional officers helped me set it up. I didn’t go in with the teachers, I went in and talked to the officers. Well the officers were so enthused about it, that instead of having me come in and load software, Officer Powell was in charge of security, he said, “Teach me how to do it, I’ll do it. I got kids and they’re doing stuff at home and I can help this, I think it’s a good thing for these guys and gals.” And it was a co-ed class, we had men and women there, and it’s working out very well so they’re gonna get some more tablets.

Len Sipes:  But you know… go ahead, please.

Steve Steurer:  And this is a key thing for me. All of a sudden people around the county are saying, “Well, what are you doing with those tablets? Now they’re looking at them. But, you know, I think this is, a piece of this is getting correctional officials to feel secure enough to make these leaps and use technology, especially when one of their peers they respect like Rob Green or Art Wallenstein are doing it. They’ll take a look at it. We’re beginning to crack that with the Corrections Corporations of Americans saying, “We’ll buy these tablets now.” The Ohio Department of Corrections, Rehab and Corrections led by Gary Mohr, Secretary Gary Mohr. They’re buying them. They’re talking to their peers at the American Correctional Association Conference and showing off. Gary Mohr was playing with a tablet at the last ACA meeting. “Oh I hadn’t seen ‘em! Oh this is great!” And he’s showing the next guy at our table who might’ve been running New Jersey. So it’s word of mouth. It’s the security that you’re friends are doing it, your colleagues, that’s what’s gonna do this. I mean that’s what I’m hoping’s gonna do it and that’s my belief and that’s why I try to meet with all the folks and talk with them and get the word out.

Len Sipes:  Well everybody’s excited about this Steve, everybody, but I just want you to know that nobody here at my agency, the Court Services of Offenders Supervision Agency here at Washington DC, we just did a computer network, a virtual network to twenty Federal Prisons yesterday, where we spent the entire day bringing in people from Washington DC, instructing inmates from Washington DC at these various Federal Prisons, plus other inmates as to what their resources are in DC when they come home, what they can expect, what they should take advantage of, how do they get their GED, how do they get their plumbing certificate, how they take advantage of collegiate programs, where do they go to get their identifications, what are the roles of supervision. I mean we’re doing that now. We have our own television network of prisons throughout the United States. So this technology is possible, this technology is here now.

Steve Steurer:  Right, it is, and it’s a matter of letting it go deeper into the prisons, where it’s not just up on the correctional officers’ desk down at the end of the hall, and maybe on the teachers’ desk, but it’s in the classroom and you got a computer set up, and then you got a land going, but it can go out, be switched on and go out to the centers, into certain sites where there are a lot of resources available. And it’s a cost factor that people have to have money to do that. Montgomery County is better off than lots of counties and so they’re able to play around with this. They’ve got the community collage coming in with another tablet. I’m gonna have two tablets in the school. Technically, the school is run by the Correctional Education Association by the way, the Montgomery County brought us in seven years ago, when they were having budget problems and so they actually work for us.

And I go there. And so I wanna keep my hands on in this business. And so you know, it’s happening and we can get out there with it but we’ve gotta get the word out to more people and what I’d like to make a comment on real quick about your television – giving these inmates all this information [INDISCERNIBLE 00:23:40] hookups, remote hookups, and television and all that, that’s terrific and that’s been done for a long time. What we need to do on the other end of that, with the inmates, is to have tablets and things in their hands, or computers in their hands that are secure. Where they can go, start playing around with this. Teaching these guys how to use these things other than for phone calls and text messages, is absolutely necessary. You have to make people computer literate.

Len Sipes:  But the hope and dream of all of this is at your time, at your leisure, so the person can learn, go through a learning to read program from ten o clock to twelve o clock and then pick it back up again at three o clock to four o clock, and then pick it back up again at seven o clock to eight o clock, or it can be live instruction. I mean the possibilities here are endless.

Steve Steurer:  Yeah, and that’s what happens in Montgomery County. They don’t have enough tablets, ‘cause they have thirty, so the other students want them now. So these thirty people go back and they’re working in their cell. They can’t take it out in common areas, so they have to be, so it doesn’t get passed around like a toy or something; and they’re wanting to do this. They’re sitting in their cell, working on stuff, bringing it back the next day. I had one woman drop one of the tablets. She thought she broke it. She was so upset. I mean, can you imagine if we could’ve taped this, this woman comes back from her cell, she’s in jail for who knows what, and then she’s about ready to cry. She says “I dropped my tablet and I was doing my schoolwork,” and it turns out the tablet was not damaged and I guess she was probably afraid she was gonna have to pay for it too which we weren’t gonna charge her but everything’s fine. She’s happy. I mean they guard those, you know, when you give them the opportunity to start, showing them what to do, they get enthusiastic and then want more. You know, that’s what the story of good education is.

Len Sipes:  Well the enthusiasm, I think, is running across the board from anywhere from the inmate population to Washington DC to state capitals because I think some people will suggest that things are changing in terms of prison education, in terms of remote education within correctional facilities, because states are saying, “We’ve got to bring down our rates of recidivism because we can no longer afford the billions of dollars that we’ve been throwing into mainstream prisons.” So I think across the board whether it’s politically, I don’t care what state you’re in, every governor has told every correctional commissioner that they’ve got to do something to lower the recidivism rate because they can no longer afford to keep putting the same amount of money into their prison systems as they have within the last twenty or thirty years. So I think you, we may find ourselves surprised as to how well this will be accepted in the next five, ten years.

Steve Steurer:  Well I hope so and I really think in our business it’s a matter of peers convincing peers and then if they get all enthusiastic and they go to deal with the politicians and they’re well respected in their work, they can convince the politicians that they don’t have to defend why they gave a couple bucks for a piece of computer equipment to a prison and the public schools you know, some of them need some more stuff. So you know, we’ve got an attitude in this country to break through. I’m very confident correctional officials wanted to do more and do better. I think that they’re fighting their battles trying to convince the public, and trying to protect their jobs you know, sometimes because this is not a popular thing to talk about. So, we have to somehow turn the public mind around on this to accept this that we have to actually educate the people that we throw behind bars or they’re gonna come out and do the same thing or worse, and we can do this and you’re gonna have to be a little bit more liberal on your attitude about whether they should have some special thing like a laptop they’re working on or a computer or whatever, a pad. You know, so we’ve got a battle to do here.

Len Sipes:  I’ve talked to a lot of wardens, and I’ve walked through a lot of prisons and a lot of jails in my career and I’ve yet to find a warden that was not enthusiastic about correctional education because he or she will suggest that it keeps the institution safe, that inmates that are gainfully employed in educational or vocational programs throughout the course of the day, that makes for a happy, safe and sane prison. It’s the prisons that don’t have these things that become dangerous places. I would tend to believe that you would agree with me on that.

Steve Steurer:  I would agree with you on that. I think there are a lot of people who where we’ve started programs that that’s their main motivation; the wardens and you know, they wanna keep the place secure, they don’t want a lot of trouble. They don’t want guys fighting with each other and they like the inmates to be halfway content with the situation they’re in and then it’s easier to run the place and get something done. But I think there are a good number of these people who originally come from program areas themselves and up to the leadership as the warden or whatever, that also see it beyond that as a really good thing for the community, for people that can change, that they’re optimistic that some of these, fifty 50% of people don’t come back, not all of them have changed but at least you know, they’re not getting arrested. Hopefully not committing crimes but 50% are coming back, if we could drop that so it’s 75% don’t come back, I mean that’s going to require an investment. [OVERLAY]

Len Sipes:  And if you could go, if you could change the recidivism rate from 50% to 25%, that entity would win the Nobel Prize.

Steve Steurer:  Oh, it would.

Len Sipes:  It would save the state billions of dollars, save a lot of people from being victimized and it would be a win-win for everybody.

Steve Steurer:  Yeah, and I don’t know what the time limit is here.

Len Sipes:  Very quick Steve, we’re running out of time.

Steve Steurer:  We ought to take a look at what some of the other countries are doing, like Germany, and their attitude about what programs, what the program priority is behind bars. I mean those Americans that go and visit abroad say, “You know, we have a whole different political attitude” and I don’t know how we can change that but you know, lots of other countries, particularly in western Europe think about this stuff in a much different way than we do.

Len Sipes:  All right, Steve Steurer, is my guest today, Executive Director of the Correctional Educational Association www.ceanational.org. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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The Correctional Education Association Conference, 2011-The State of Correctional Education in America-DC Public Safety Radio

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/07/the-correctional-education-association-conference-2011-the-state-of-correctional-education-in-america-dc-public-safety-radio/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at http://twitter.com/lensipes.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  This is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We’re broadcasting live from The Correctional Education Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. We have five hundred people from not only all over the country, but all over the world – over five hundred people who are here to discuss correctional education. As you’re well aware – those of us within the criminal justice system – there are entire states that are cutting out their correctional education programs, vocational programs, educational programs and there are other states cutting back because they feel they have no choice because of budgets. We’re here to discuss what’s going on throughout the country – new and innovative ways to deliver correctional education programs.

The research does seem to be pretty clear that the better prepared they are upon release from the prison systems, the better they do in society, which means that fewer people are victimized by crime and the less money the taxpayers have to put out to put them back into the prison systems. So it’s a win-win situation for everybody. We’re going to be a doing a series of five-minute interviews, short interviews. First up is Susan Lockwood. She is the Director of Juvenile Education in a Midwest state and she is also the President of the Council of State Directors for the Correctional Educational Association talking about computer-based learning, computer-learning skills.

We’re talking to William Byers. He is from the state of Arkansas. He is a School Superintendent for the correctional system there in the state of Arkansas, where they found the 25% difference in recidivism, which is pretty significant. We have Denise Justice. Denise is the CEA Past President and she is a School Superintendent for an entire correctional system in the state. She received their President’s Award for her relentless pursuit of correctional educational and she’s talking about how to promote correctional education throughout the United States to get everybody to understand that the payoffs can be significant. Steve Steurer is up for the next five-minute interview. He is the Executive Director of the Correctional Educational Association. His job is to provide an overview, provide a national perspective as to where we currently are with correctional education.

And finally, the last person up is Cindy Borden. She with a company called Northstar Correctional Systems and she under contract for the Correctional Education Association. They did a four-year piece of research in terms of school programming, post-secondary education, collegiate education and in essence the people who they followed up in a two-year time period, one-third of these individuals were enrolled in college and three-quarters were employed, which is a pretty doggone good piece of research or statistics in terms of correctional educational programs and their results. So, again, short five-minute interviews starting with Susan Lockwood and we hope you enjoy the program.

Len Sipes:  This is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We’re broadcasting live today from The Correctional Education Association Conference in Charleston, West Virginia. Quite frankly, ladies and gentleman I’ve been to correctional conferences throughout the country and Tim Barnes and I have done our fair share of conference support and this is one of the largest correctional conferences I’ve seen. It’s principally people who are involved in correctional education, correctional programs, who have an interest in the whole concept of a fund of reentry and we’re here today talking to a variety of people. First up is Susan Lockwood. She is the Director of Juvenile Education at a Midwest Department of Corrections. But here in her capacity she is President of the Council of State Directors for the Correctional Education Association and, Susan, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Susan Lockwood:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  One of the interesting things here, Susan, is this whole concept of long-distance education, the correctional education. There’s a lot of states out there they’re budgets have been decreasing. In fact, one state in particular – California – pretty much wiped out correctional education. So different people are saying are there ways of doing this differently. Are there new and unique ways using unique technologies to do a better job, to stretch the tax-paid dollar as much as possible? And one of the things that I find interesting in what you’re doing is it’s GED in computer-based curriculum and testing, where your individuals that are involved in this program, what they’re doing is they’re learning computer skills. They’re learning how to type. They’re learning how to word-process for them to be comfortable with computer learning. So this is the process of teaching them how to take the GED test but to do it by computer, correct, do it by long-distance learning?

Susan Lockwood:  Correct. That’s why we’re going to have to drive our curriculum since we’re anticipating the fact that the GED testing service is going to move to that computer application of… the application of taking the test by computer and a lot of our funders are not ready to do that because they lack those skills. So, yes, we would have to adjust our curriculum and prepare them in order to do that.

Len Sipes:  There are a lot of people out there who are still computer-illiterate. I mean…

Susan Lockwood:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Whether you’re in prison or out of prison. I mean, there’s…I spoke to a gentleman the other day who just absolutely refuses to open a computer keyboard.

Susan Lockwood:  Right.

Len Sipes:  He’s well-educated. He’s smart, but he is at that age where he’s just not familiar with it. So this is a scary thing for some people.

Susan Lockwood:  Sure and a lot of our offenders, especially some of our older offenders who have been incarcerated for long periods of time, obviously, are not technology-literate and so it can be barrier for them if they wanted to take a computer-based test.

Len Sipes:  Right. So the whole idea here is to get them comfortable with a computer to the point where they can take their GED test. Now, GED curriculums are an integral part of prison education. We want them to be literate. We want them to know how to read. We want them to get their eighth grade certificate, their reading certificates, their GED certificates. The GED certificate’s sort of at the top of that ladder, correct?

Susan Lockwood:  Sure. In our state it serves as a market signal…

Len Sipes:  Right.

Susan Lockwood:  For whether or not a student is ready or a person is ready to enter post-secondary job training or even an employment situation.

Len Sipes:  It’ll make all the difference in the world in terms of that offender. I mean…

Susan Lockwood:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  If he or she has a GED, he or she suddenly becomes a marketable, far more marketable than without it.

Susan Lockwood:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  So the concept of doing the computer testing is you have to get them comfortable with the keyboard. You have to get them comfortable with the keystrokes.

Susan Lockwood:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And there’s a lot of work that goes into that.

Susan Lockwood:  Right and then there’s also portions of the test that involve writing an essay and so the student would need to be able to word-process to be able to actually type that in and within the time limit of taking the test.

Len Sipes:  Now, is there ever the possibility of being instructed… taking your instructions for the GED through a computer or at a long-distance learning or is that in the future?

Susan Lockwood:  Sure. There are lots of companies already that offer different curricular that can be delivered via computer. So that obviously would be something that lots of states are looking at, to be able to load that software into a lab and let students have that opportunity to improve themselves and grow academically through a lot of the coursework that would be on the computer.

Len Sipes:  Right. One of the questions that was asked of me is why can’t there be somebody sitting in the state of Kansas or, you know, and teaching people in Alaska? Why isn’t that possible?

Susan Lockwood:  Well, that would be possible, although, having experienced that kind of a situation myself via distance learning, I think that being on the receiving end of that instruction it’s really more beneficial to not only have that piece, but also to have a person in the room with the students right there on site where they can actually ask the questions, discuss and it’s often a lot more…

Len Sipes:  Powerful.

Susan Lockwood:  Yeah, definitely.

Len Sipes:  Sure. Okay and before we go, before we end this particular part of the program, I do want to touch upon the benefits to society. A person gets a GED and what happens?

Susan Lockwood:  Well, the whole thought would be that as part of a process of gaining employment that, again, the GED would be a market signal and so it just allows this person to have an opportunity to be successful and outside the fence, to be able to go out, perhaps get a job, perhaps get further job training and once that a person becomes employed, our research has shown that it impacts recidivism; that employment is…

Len Sipes:  Right. There are fewer crimes.

Susan Lockwood:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There are fewer crimes as a result of it.

Susan Lockwood:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And it eases the tax-paid burden because….

Susan Lockwood:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  They’re out there paying taxes instead of taking taxes.

Susan Lockwood:  Instead of being a tax liability, they’re paying taxes.

Len Sipes:  Our guest today has been Susan Lockwood. She is the Director of Juvenile Education for a state in the Midwest, but in her capacity today she is the President of the Council of State Directors, again, at the Correctional Education Association Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

Len Sipes:  From the Correctional Education Association Conference in Charleston, West Virginia, I’m really pleased to have William Byers by our microphones. He’s the Superintendent of the Arkansas Correctional School System. He’s in charge of the whole shebang. He’s on the Board of the Correctional Education Association and is also Regional Director with the Correctional Education Association And one of the things that Mr. Byers was talking about – Superintendent Byers was talking about – was the fact that he has a 25% reduction in the rate of recidivism for those people who obtain GEDs. Am I right?

William Byers:  That is correct, yes.

Len Sipes:  Well that’s incredible, a 25% reduction. Most of the research on reentry programs will basically give 10-20%. Twenty percent seems to be on the outer reaches of the reduction of recidivism. You’re doing 25%. Why is that?

William Byers:  Well, we have a very successful program. Number One: We require everyone who comes into the Department of Correction who does not have a high school diploma or GED to attend school while they’re incarcerated. Also, I might add that the Board of Correction is also our school board and they are very supportive of our program. Education, they place a high priority on education. The teachers know that. The students know that. The inmates know that. So I think that’s one thing that contributes to the success. Not only that, but we find that those who get out not only recidivated at a lower level than those who don’t earn a high school diploma or GED, but they also get a better paying job and they’re more likely to have a job.

Len Sipes:  Right and they’re more likely to keep a job probably.

William Byers:  Exactly, exactly.

Len Sipes:  But the interesting thing is that, we in the United States, we’re having a struggle now with correctional education and with reentry programs and vocational educational programs. There are some states that are giving more money towards it and some states that are cutting it out because of their budget situation. The states are in a dire budget situation. What do you say to citizens – somebody sitting out there, somebody from the Governor’s Office, somebody from the PTA – to convince them that correctional education is worthwhile, that it’s in the average citizen’s best interests to do this?

William Byers:  I don’t care what studies you look at. You can look at them from the free world, from the prison situation. The bottom line is education helps. It helps society. If you look at populations, the more educated the populous is the higher the level of income and that’s true of the general population; it’s also true of the inmate population. The more educated they are, the better they’ll behave in prison, the more likely they’ll get out and stay out. So it’s beneficial to society if individuals can get an education while they’re incarcerated.

Len Sipes:  Being a correctional officer is one of the toughest, most dangerous jobs of the face of the earth.

William Byers:  It is.

Len Sipes:  These programs…this is very rarely ever discussed, the fact that these programs keep prisoners peaceful.

William Byers:  Yes. We deal with 21 wardens around the state in Arkansas and they will tell you that they want education in their unit because not only does it provide something for the inmates to do, but it provides something positive for them to do.

Len Sipes:  Sure. You want to have problems, then give them nothing to do. Let them play basketball. Let them sit in their bunks. That’s a dangerous prison. If you have programs in the prison, that’s a safe, sane prison.

William Byers:  Plus, they’re around educators. They’re around educated people who mentor them and affect them in a positive way just by being around them.

Len Sipes:  How many people do you graduate a year from the GED program? I was very impressed by that.

William Byers:  In the state of Arkansas we have over a thousand inmates a year to earn their GED and that compares to…the inmate population in Arkansas is about fifteen thousand, so we have a high participation and we have a lot of people who walk out with a GED.

Len Sipes:  Now, we use the word ‘recidivism’ rather loosely. What we’re talking about is fewer people being mugged, fewer people being victims of crime because inmates get GED programs. They go on to live… they have the chance to live a more successful life, make more money, to be in that job longer, which translates into fewer crimes, which translates into individuals paying taxes and not being a tax burden.

William Byers:  And that’s something you can’t measure. We say that they’re taxpayers instead of being a tax burden, but also you can’t measure somebody not being mugged or somebody not being raped. That’s one of the benefits that you can’t put a figure on.

Len Sipes:  Well, that will be the final word from you. William Byers, B-Y-E-R-S, William Byers – he is the Superintendent of the Arkansas Correctional School System. Thank you very much for being with us.

William Byers:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  This is DC Public Safety. We’re at The Correctional Education Conference in Charleston, West Virginia and at our microphones today is a person with a really unique last name: Denise Justice. She is CEA Past President. She is a School Superintendent – and I love all the Superintendents that we’re interviewing today – for a correctional system somewhere in the United States. She received the President’s Award today from the Correctional Education Association and I asked somebody as you why she got the award. It was for relentless pursuit or advocacy for correctional education. So I figured she’d be the right person to ask. Denise, why in the name of God do we do correctional education? A lot of people are out there. There are a lot of other priorities. There’s the elderly. There are people out of work. I mean, there are a lot of issues in the United States today. Why should anybody care about correctional education?

Denise Justice:  There are a lot of issues in the United States and we are clear about that, but when we have an incarcerated person in the United States, they are about 99.9% sure that they are going to get released at some point in time.

Len Sipes:  At some point in time.

Denise Justice:  At some point in time. Very few people go to prison and never ever come out again and when they do come out, they don’t move far away from each one of us. They’re in our neighbourhood. They’re five minutes away from us. They’re next door, wherever the case may be. They’re going to come home. Many of them were incarcerated because they did not have the skills – educational skills, employment skills – in order to be able to be a taxpaying citizen.

Len Sipes:  The research says that we interact with people caught up in the criminal justice system every single day whether we go to a restaurant, whether we go to the auto store, whether we go to the tire stores, whether we go…it doesn’t matter. We are encountering individuals who have been caught up in a criminal justice system every single day. So if they’re constantly around us, doesn’t it make sense to be sure that when they come out of the prison system they’re as best prepared as they possibly can be to live a productive life?

Denise Justice:  Absolutely because it does save us money. If they can come out and get a job and pay taxes and stay out of the criminal justice system because that costs taxpayers a lot of money, too.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Denise Justice:  Then we are actually saving ourselves money. We also…you need to think about do you want your neighbor to have some skills to be able to get a job and pay those taxes or do you want to force them into a situation where all they can do is go out and cause another crime? And maybe the crime is robbing your house, taking your VCR, your TV.

Len Sipes:  So what we’re talking about is lessening the crime rate for individuals listening to this program. They become safer because of correctional education programs.

Denise Justice:  Absolutely. You can look at any recidivism study that you want to and if you don’t know, recidivism is basically the rate at which people come back to prison or come back into the justice field and you can look and see no matter what study is done, it tells you that people who are involved in education or getting employable skills are going to be less likely at whatever rate – there are different rates, you know – 10%, 20%, 30% differentials, but whatever it is, education makes them less likely to come back to prison.

Len Sipes:  Well, the guest before you, William Byers, Superintendent of the Arkansas Correctional School System, I mean he claimed a 25% reduction. That’s large. I mean in a world where you’re happy if you get 7% and you’re satisfied if you get 10% and you’re ecstatic is you get 20%. By heavens, 25% is a huge difference. I mean, if you have seven hundred thousand people come home every year in this country from prison, 25% of that lopped off, 25% of these people going on to be taxpayers instead of tax burdens. That saves states millions, hundreds of millions of dollars, in the long run in terms of construction costs, in terms of operating costs. It saves taxpayers a lot of money.

Denise Justice:  Absolutely. We found in the 80s, a lot of states got into prison-building booms. They tried to build themselves out of prison overcrowding and what we discovered was it was almost a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you build it, they will come. So we were building double and triple the number of prisons maybe we had in our state and instead of getting down to a 100% capacity in our facilities we still found ourselves 125%, 150%, 200% over capacity.

Len Sipes:  Regardless as to how many prisons we built, they were still overcrowded.

Denise Justice:  Regardless of how many prisons, absolutely, and so now we are looking more at the fact that what we need to do is to start the day that people come into our system and to start planning for their reentry, looking at getting them their GED if they have not completed a GED or a diploma. Looking at getting them career tech skills and employability skills so that they can go out dealing with their addictions, dealing with their anger, issues of child abuse and all of those areas and getting them ready to go back out on the street. Getting them to know what linkages is out there that can help them. Whatever areas they needed to stay out.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So quick answer on this one because we need a quick answer. We’re just about out of time. So the Correctional Education Association is designed to advocate that throughout the country, is to bring likeminded people…there are over five hundred people at this conference today and over the course of the next couple of days. That’s a large gathering, especially in these economic times. So everybody’s coming together to do what?

Denise Justice:  Everyone’s coming together – particularly at our international conferences – is to come together to share problems that you’re having, to come up with solutions, share solutions you maybe came up with at home, to find materials and resources that we can use because of budgetary cuts.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, my guest today has been Denise Justice. She is the Correctional Education Association Past President. She’s the Superintendent of a Correctional School System for a state and the award recipient today for the President’s Award at the Correctional Education Association Conference. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

This is DC Public Safety. I continue to be your host Leonard Sipes as we broadcast from The Correctional Education Association Conference in Charleston, West Virginia. I really have a lot of pleasure in reintroducing because he’s been to our microphones before, Steve Stuerer. He is the Executive Director of the Correctional Education Association – Steve, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Steve Stuerer:  Thank you for having me again.

Len Sipes:  It’s a really interesting conference. Again, Tim and I have been to conferences…Tim Barnes and I have been to correctional conferences throughout the country and we’ve been to government conferences throughout the country dealing with social media and this is by far one of the largest conferences I’ve seen. You have well over five hundred people in attendance.

Steve Stuerer:  Well, we’ve been very lucky. West Virginia is terrifically supportive of correctional education and people, I think, the people are bringing themselves together and it’s a tough time. I think it’s actually drawing us together rather than pulling us apart and pulling us down.

Len Sipes:  Well, it is a tough time and I do want to emphasize that this is a national conference not necessarily a West Virginia conference. You have people from all over the country. We have a couple of people from around the world and education programs in correctional facilities, correctional systems, throughout the country they’re hurting. California sliced out the entire education program. You have different states that are cutting back significantly.

So what you’re going to do for me today is to put it in perspective. Where are we in terms of correctional education in the United States – whether it’s GED programs, whether it’s vocational programs? Where are we? Are we gaining? A lot of states are saying, “Hey, the way to reduce recidivism and control our costs is to put more programs on the table.” Some states are saying, “I’m sorry. We can’t afford it. We’re in a budget jam.” Where are we? Put it in perspective for me.

Steve Stuerer:  On a national level, we’re losing. We just lost all our post-secondary money that we had from the federal government – $17.2m was going out to the states on a formula basis. That’s gone. Not likely to be getting that back any time soon. Some of the states still support post-secondary education – vocational primarily, but with credits – through state funding of various sorts or some inmates actually pay their own way if their families can afford it. So we lost that. GED, we’re hanging in there, but we have a whole new challenge because GED is going on computer and within two years it will be computer-based.

So that’s going to present a real problem financially for a lot of systems trying to retool. So the whole basic education, GED, it’s holding in there, but we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to meet this GED challenge; vocational education, probably losing there, too. The Perkins Act, which has been around for decades, is being severely cut. So a lot of that money would go into corrections as well as into the community. Vocational programs, we’re cut with that. So I think generally speaking in just about every state we’re having some real stress.

Len Sipes:  Is that why you have such a good turnout at the conference, though? I mean, I see a lot of enthusiasm and the people that I’m talking to today certainly aren’t down in the mouth. They are enthusiastic about what it is that they do. They’re hopeful about what it is they do. They see the value in terms of what it is they do. So there’s a dichotomy here. On one side, I agree with you that we are struggling in terms of maintaining the number of programs and the quality of programs, but on the flipside is the enthusiasm I see from the membership of the Correctional Education Association. They know the value and they want to move forward.

Steve Stuerer:  Yeah, I think it’s kind of descriptive of our membership to see that kind of enthusiasm. They’re used to working in tough circumstances. They’re used to working with people who no one else wants to work with; who have given up on them. So when problems come along, they can gripe and groan just like everybody else and some of them just give up and shake their heads and wring their hands, but I think most of the people respond accordingly: Well, we don’t have much to begin with. Let’s figure out how we can do it a different way. Let’s see if we can find some more resources. Let’s see if…

Len Sipes:  Is there a different way of doing it?

Steve Stuerer:  Well, we’re trying to see what different ways can be done. I mean, with the GED, for example, we’re going to work very closely with the GED Testing Service, which is owned jointly by GED Testing and American Council of Education and Pearson VUE, which is a company that does a lot of vocational assessment. So we’re going to see. There might be ways to deliver things a little bit differently. At CEA one of the things we do is we train teachers to train inmates to be tutors and what started out was a kind of collaboration between Maryland and Ohio ideas, the concept of tutor training, we put it into a national program.

There’s like six states now that we’ve gone in, we’ve trained thirty… anywhere from thirty to eighty teachers at a time in three-day seminars, how to train inmates to be their aids and most states will allow inmates to act as aids. In Ohio we’re…in the last five years or so, I think it is, they’ve trained over thirty-five hundred inmates who in turn work with the teacher and tutor others in the classroom, so they’re not running around in some disorganized fashion. It’s a little army, so to speak. In Louisiana, they’re about three years into this. They’ve trained over five hundred inmates. In fact, the job is one of the best in the system. Inmates have to be highly qualified to do it and then they get some special privileges. They might get sent to another institution.

Len Sipes:  So we really are squeezing that rock for…

Steve Stuerer:  We’re squeezing it…

Len Sipes:  We’re being as innovative as possible, but one of the other…a question I asked to another person at our microphones this afternoon was why can’t you have a person centrally located somewhere in the United States teaching inmates any place else in the United States through a long-distance learning?

Steve Stuerer:  Well, you could possibly do that with some of the folks. I mean, a lot of folks do things online, for example, but I daresay, because I teach online for the University of Maryland University College; it’s an open university and some students have a great deal of difficulty because a lack of sufficient writing skills, reading skills, etc. They are much better served with some face-to-face assistance, whether it’s a mentor or hopefully a teacher, but people need assistance who have a lot of severe deficits and the correctional population, typically, come in…

Len Sipes:  Is filled with people who have severe deficits when they come to the education…

Steve Stuerer:  All kinds of deficits and complications.

Len Sipes:  But before we end the program and we’re in our final minute of the program, I do want to get around to the results because people listen to this program and they’re going to say to themselves, “Okay, you’re the Executive Director of the Correctional Education Association. Sorry, Mr. Executive Director, we’ve got elderly people. We’ve got school kids to take care of. We have so many people unemployed and now you want me to give money and support to this whole concept of correctional education,” and to these people you’re going to respond how?

Steve Stuerer:  Well, if I were to talk to a group of elderly people, I think I could get some of them to understand the situation. Things are tough and what are you going to do? Why can’t you reach out to other folks who are in bad situations? What is it about us that we in the United States that we tend to just incarcerate somebody and want to throw away the key? Why isn’t the concept of community, of helping each other, people who are down, who are quite capable if they get the right kind of assistance…why do we want to do that?

Len Sipes:  But there are tangible benefits to taxpayers as well.

Steve Stuerer:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  Look, they’re not going to…their chances of being mugged, their chances of their house being burglarized are significantly reduced if these individuals are trained in prison.

Steve Stuerer:  Right, but the reason I bring out this other issue is that we’ve made that argument for years – the reduction of recidivism. We did one of the significant studies in the field and so that really brought the attention of politicians, but right now, all bets are off. You see, what’s happening in states and at the national level. They’re not looking at research in any area. They’re cutting programs. They’re cutting this, cutting that. So I’m trying to see if we can appeal a little more to people’s consciences because there is a big conscience in the United States. Some of the biggest givers in the world in terms of charity and in terms of helping folks and so we’ve gotta take a little bit different tack because right now nobody cares about the recidivism study, you know? So we need to create some sympathy on a humanistic level. So that’s one of the reason why I think the social media, we need to take a good look at it and see how we can reach people. Not just in the dollar in their pocket, but their own feelings about helping others.

Len Sipes:  Steve, you get the final word. You had the final word. Steve Stuerer, the Executive Director of the Correctional Education Association, at their Annual Conference in Charleston, West Virginia. Ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We continue to broadcast from the Correctional Education Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. Again, well over five hundred individuals from all over the country – some people from all over the world – looking at this whole concept of correctional education, looking at correctional programs, looking at reentry programs, looking at what makes a difference in terms of the impact of how people come out of prison. Are they successful? What programs are they engaged in? What programs did they participate in? What programs are successful? What programs aren’t successful? That’s the point of the Correctional Education Conference and before our microphones, we’re going to continue this discussion on research. Cindy Borden, she is with a private company and the private company was under contract to the Correctional Education Association to do some research. Now, needless to say, we can’t endorse a private company, but these are the people who were in charge of the research. Cindy Borden. She is with the Northstar Correctional Educational Services. They are Correctional Education Consultants and the interesting thing here is that what we’re talking about is post-secondary education, i.e. college. A four-year piece of research that shows that one-third, after they’re done a two-year period, one-third are enrolled in college and three-quarter are employed. So those are pretty, pretty, pretty significant findings. Cindy, let’s talk about this. Now, how did you end up with the contract with the Correctional Education Association?

Cindy Borden:  CEA asked us to find a funding source and then to recruit states. Started out with six states to participate in this research who were willing to randomly assign students into either the intervention, which was a distance learning program or a control situation, which was basically business as usual. There are local community colleges or correspondence work. So we found the funding source in the Institute of Education Sciences with the US Department of Ed and then they asked us to conduct the field research.

Len Sipes:  Now, both of you…and you’re the other person from your company. You’re former principals or superintendents? What were you?

Cindy Borden:  We were former teachers and then principals in the prison system.

Len Sipes:  So you have a lot of experience in terms of this.

Cindy Borden:  I do.

Len Sipes:  You have hands-on experience. Now, I do want to explain for our audience that random assignment is the gold standard for research. It’s when a prison…we’re talking about forty-four prisons, right, in seven states?

Cindy Borden:  Forty-four prisons in seven states, that’s right.

Len Sipes:  Okay and so half were given this program and half were not and it happened by chance. So in other words there’s no research bias.

Cindy Borden:  That’s right. They were randomly assigned by computer, generated and half were given the distance learning intervention. The other half continued business as usual.

Len Sipes:  Okay. So that is the gold standard. So tell me about this. So you had…this existed for how long in the post-secondary education is a collegiate program and the college program?

Cindy Borden:  Yes, it was the first two years of academic college, so basically freshman and sophomore year core course – Gen Ed courses. We went out to the prisons for three years, twice a year. We did pre-testing of the students in the fall and post-testing in the spring. For three years running, we conducted focus groups and we interviewed site coordinators and students. We gave the CAP Critical Thinking exams to all the students in the fall and then post-tested them in the spring.

Len Sipes:  Now, believe me. I understand how controversial this is from a public relations point of view. When I was with the state of Maryland I used to do press releases about collegiate stuff, people graduating from collegiate programs and I got quite a bit of pushback from citizens. So there is a concern. People asked me quite blankly…bluntly rather, “I can’t afford to send my child to college, so this guy goes out and commits a violent crime and he gets a free college education. Where’s the fairness in that?” One of the things that I would say in return was that the individuals involved in collegiate programs had the lowest rates of recidivism. That means out of all the things that you could do within a correctional setting these individuals committed fewer crimes, fewer crimes than any other group of individuals and cost taxpayers less money than any other group of individuals. Is that right?

Cindy Borden:  That’s absolutely right. An investment in college education for these students brings a cost benefit to the taxpayer that is tremendous. We invest in their college education while they’re incarcerated and the recidivism rate drops significantly for these people. We have discovered in the course of this study that even exposure to a single college course or a single semester of college courses makes a tremendous difference in their decisions once they get out.

Len Sipes:  Right, but I mean in this case, what I’m asking is is that this program, these post-secondary collegiate programs in the prison settings are more effective than any other program I’m aware of. That’s the question.

Cindy Borden:  They are very effective. Vocational training is also very effective for a separate type of person, but for those who are interested in academic education, yes, college – straight up college – is tremendously effective.

Len Sipes:  And I do want to point out the effects. Now, we’re talking about two years out, but that two-year cohort could be people out for two years or people just entering the cohort and being out for a couple of months.

Cindy Borden:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  So when you measured this at a two-year period for people out for an entire period of two years and just entering the cohort for a couple of months you found that one-third were enrolled in college and three-quarters were employed.

Cindy Borden:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  Now that’s amazing. I mean…

Cindy Borden:  It’s a pretty good result.

Len Sipes:  Those sorts of statistics are beyond comprehension. I mean, that’s pretty much the best piece of research or the best research findings I’ve ever heard of.

Cindy Borden:  It’s much higher than we anticipated. We didn’t expect it to be that high. We were surprised at what that exposure to college produced in their post-release statistics.

Len Sipes:  And you would say to the average individual out there who has mixed feelings about this that, what? That these finding trumps just about every other finding that we’ve encountered or what do you say to that person?

Cindy Borden:  To the one who says, “I’m paying for my kid’s college. Why should the convicts get it for free?”

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cindy Borden:  The investment in these people pays off to our communities. What I say to people who say that directly to me is that these people are getting out of prison and they’re going to move next to you and they’re going to move next to your children…

Len Sipes:  Or they’re going to be a five-minute drive.

Cindy Borden:  Or they’re going to be a five-minute drive and who do you want there? Do you want someone who has had some exposure to college, who’s actually earned a college degree or someone who did nothing with his time while he was incarcerated and then was released and moved in next to your children?

Len Sipes:  Cindy Borden, you had the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re broadcasting from the Correctional Education Conference here in Charleston, West Virginia. Cindy is with a private company. Again, we can’t endorse private companies, but she was a contractor to the Correctional Education Association to conduct this research. Northstar Correctional Educational Services at northstarcorrectional.com. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your time and effort and listening and look forward next time to another program on the state of the criminal justice system in America. Have yourselves a very pleasant day.

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